This Week in Armenian History

Birth of Samvel Mkrtchyan (February 25, 1959)

Reading the list of translations by Samvel Mkrtchyan is simply humbling. His translation of a text like James Joyce’s Ulysses (2012), published two years before his untimely death, crowned the career of this prolific translator.  

Mkrtchyan was born on February 25, 1959, in Talin (Armenia). He finished School No. 20 of Leninakan (nowadays Gumri) and in 1983 he graduated from the Valery Brusov University, specialized in foreign languages. Afterwards, he launched his career as editor and translator. He worked at Astghik, a journal of translation published by Yerevan State University, and then he was the editor of some of the first post-Soviet periodicals, such as Andradardz, Ar, and Banber, He also worked at the daily Aravot and at the weekly of the Writers Union of Armenia, Grakan Tert. He earned the medal Grigor Narekatsi of the Ministry of Culture of Armenia. In 2002 he founded and directed until his death the quarterly journal Artasahmanian Grakanutiun, where he presented foreign literature translated directly from the original language into Armenian. 

His impressive list of translations started with a collection including William Shakespeare’s Sonnets, Venus and Adonis, and A Lover’s Complaint (1991), followed by The Rape of Lucrece (2004) and new editions of the Sonnets in 2004 and 2013, the latter also including the Bard’s long and short poems. T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land (1991) was followed by Poems (2004) and Four Quartets (2013). Mkrtchyan also translated Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (1994), Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories for Little Children (1995), William Faulkner’s The Bear (1992) and Absalom, Absalom! (2001), Herman Melville’s stories (2001), and an anthology of American and British poetry (2004). He did not leave aside the lyrics of contemporary names like Leonard Cohen (Songs of Love and Hate, 2012) and Charles Bukowski (The Genius of the Crowd and Other Poems, 2013), and translations from Armenian authors like William Saroyan (1992), William Michaelian (Ancient Language, 2005), and Garin Hovannisian (Family of Shadows, 2009). He compiled a collection of his translations in a two-volume edition of 2009. 

Mkrtchyan also produced several volumes of translations from Armenian into English. These included two selections of poetry from Armenia (1991, 2004) and an anthology of Yeghishe Charents՛ poems (2012), as well as essays by Ruben Angalatyan (1995) and poetry by Shushig Dasnabedian (1999) and Vahe Armen (2000). 

Samvel Mkrtchyan passed away on December 7, 2014, in Yerevan, at the age of 55.